Donald Trump struck an unapologetic tone for a riot at the Capitol he fomented, using a Friday morning tweet to call his loyalists “great American Patriots” and declaring they “will not be disrespected” even after some of them ransacked the building and five people died.
“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future,” the president tweeted. “They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
The outgoing president could face a second impeachment vote in the House next week after his supporters busted into the legislative hall, apparently looking for lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence in a dual bid to stop their electoral college certification process and “take back our country”, as many screamed and told reporters during the melee.
The doubling down on his half decade contention that his mostly white, middle-class, conservative base of citizens has been treated badly by the political system also came hours after the US Capitol Police announced an officer who was injured during the violent riot – which some Republican and Democratic lawmakers and President-elect Joe Biden have called “domestic terrorism” – had died. According to US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned following the riot, police were struck with metal pipes during the clashes.
Senior police officials from several agencies that eventually responded to the mob scene said numerous pro-Trump rioters showed up to a rally he headlined near the White House then the Capitol with lead pipes and explosives. Others entered the Senate chamber with zip ties, which police officers use as handcuffs during mass-arrest events. They apparently were looking to take hostages.
“Where the f*** are they?!” one rioter can be heard yelling inside the Capitol on a video posted online. Another asked a Capitol Police officer: “Where’s Mike Pence.”
The officer made no attempt to arrest the man, who seemed intent on doing harm to the vice president of the United States.
Another rioter claimed “you could tell some of them were on our side”, one rioter told fellow pro-Trump mobsters outside the Capitol, referring to some of the Capitol Police officers he encountered while inside the building, according to a video posted Thursday by CNN.
Senior aides reportedly spent much of Wednesday evening and Thursday pleading with the president to denounce the violence, apologise and concede his election loss.
He first did so with tepid tweets, then a Wednesday video that was posted on Twitter before the social media giant froze his account temporarily. But in that recording, he ad-libbed, talking about a stolen election and praising his supporters.
Several media outlets, citing close Trump aides, described him as “bemused” by the scene at the Capitol and pleased the criminal mob had stopped the electoral vote-counting and debate of GOP objections.
By Thursday night, however, several top officials had resigned in protest of his stirring up the crowd’s anger. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a stern message that if Mr Pence and a majority of the Cabinet did not use the 25th Amendment to remove Mr Trump from office, her caucus would impeach him next week.
He then shared another video, this one recorded inside the White House with a dark blue flag featuring the seal of the Office of the President over his left shoulder.
"A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th," Mr Trump said. "My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation."
Still, he never conceded the 2020 race. And he never uttered the words “Joe Biden”, “president-elect” or “congratulations”.
But it became clear the next morning his focus lies elsewhere. His tweet suggested he has future political ambitious, possibly a 2024 run for another term.
But House Democrats are pushing for a swift impeachment and possible removal after a Senate conviction, which legal experts contend would prohibit Mr Trump from seeking elected office again.